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Highsnobiety Q&A July, 9 2014

Highsnobiety Q&A | Simon Lister of END. Clothing

Continuing our quest to discover innovative platforms in collaboration with Vodafone #Firsts, we set our sights on specialized UK retailer END. Clothing. With two brick-and-mortar stores and a powerful online presence, END. has established itself as one of the world’s most well-curated shops in the short span of nine years, selling everything from A.P.C. and visvim to Nigel Cabourn and Tricker’s. To learn more about the shop’s undeniable success, we sat down with END.’s Marketing Manager, Simon Lister.

How did you find yourself at END?

Born and raised in Newcastle, I’ve lived here all my life. I studied marketing at Northumbria University and prior to END., I worked my way up the ladder at a software company looking after their global marketing strategy. During that time I won a scholarship to attend Kellogg School of Management in Chicago, then, around two years ago I had the opportunity to join the team here and jumped at the chance. I’ve been lucky enough to travel a fair bit over the years and take in different cultures, styles and fashion across the world and it is something I’ve always been passionate about, so working for END. is pretty much a dream job.

What is the first spark that set you on your career path?

Since school I’ve always had an interest in marketing and always wanted to be involved in some way. I was always mesmerized by the amazing car adverts on TV that VW/Audi produced. That notion of a car advert, next to a soft drink advert. One with the power for you to immediately go off the next day and buy said carbonated drink; and the other a branding exercise, like a dripping tap into your consciousness. Obviously advertising is what people see as the glamorous side to the business, but I also really like the analytical and “numbers” side to marketing. So delving into Google Analytics or looking at buyer behavior and purchasing trends.

Was your current job something you aspired to prior to landing the role?

I’ve shopped in END. since the doors opened back in 2005. Back then it was very sneaker and streetwear focused which is still very important to us today. Then in 2009 End Hunting Co. opened which is two doors down from the original END. store. That features more premium, outdoor and heritage brands, which came at a time when my style was changing and I was looking more to premium brands (I guess what I’m saying is I grew up a bit). From shopping in the stores, I’ve known the owners John and Christiaan for a number of years. When the opportunity came up to work with the guys I jumped at the chance.

What differentiates END. from the abundance of retail stores out in the market right now?

I think it is down to our values, which simply put are to stock the best products with the friendliest and most helpful service. In order to differentiate ourselves from the crowd, our buyers source products and brands from far and wide. Over the last couple of seasons we’ve tried to focus in on more high-end exclusive products (including collaborations) and Japanese brands to feature alongside our fashion and streetwear ranges. We try to generally buy deep into collections and brands. If we are into a brand, we like to represent them as fully as we can.

Photography is also hugely important to us; it has to be, given our online presence. We want customers to have the best experience when shopping with us whether that be in-store or online. For our online customers they can’t touch, feel or try product on before purchasing, therefore we need to make sure that our photography, descriptions and sizing information reflect the products as best as possible. The imagery isn’t just for our website but also the social media platforms that we interact on. Being able to directly interact with customers across the world so quickly via social channels is hugely important to us.

What sort of relationship are you aiming to foster between your brands and customers?

The traditional website/blog model is a very one way “published” communication. With social media and the LiveChat functionality on the site, it is all about the instant engagement with our customers and having a two-way conversation with them. Good communication and engaging with customers makes them feel valued. We’ll happily chat to anyone who rings us and talk them through any products to help them with their purchases.

Do you think marketing roles like your own have been saturated in recent years?

I think there are a lot of people that want to get into marketing and creative jobs for all the wrong reasons. They think it is all about going to endless lunch meetings to talk about projects and organizing parties, but at the end of the day the work has to get done somewhere along the way. Don’t get me wrong I’m not having a pop at event planning and the value of face-to-face meetings, but talking about a project is totally different to actually executing it. I think the analytical side to marketing is often overlooked and ultimately the numbers are what drive business, so you have to not only be aware of them, but also understand them. Being commercially astute is the name of the game.

What is a typical day at END.?

A typical day for me starts at around 8:30. I’ll have a meeting with the content, photography and social media teams, plan out the product that will be going online that day, social campaigns and styled shoots, etc. and talk over any ideas the team have for new content for the projects that we have on the go. From there, I’ll quickly check the blogs to see what is going in the world and then spend the morning attempting to clear the inbox. Making sure all of the publishers that we support have the product they need for shots and that our affiliates are up to date with latest products and content we’ve put together. Afternoons are normally reserved for special projects, so that could be meeting brand partners we are working on collaborative projects with, or spending a bit of time planning our next launch.

Everything from a marketing perspective that we do here, we measure and track. After any campaigns have gone out the door, we measure the effectiveness and from there then build what we’ve learned from the results into our next campaigns. It is a continuous evolution and we’re always tweaking and testing.

Pick one item from the current collections that you feel really represents you and your daily outfit at your role?

Something that I use on a daily basis is my Filson zip tote bag. It is a brand with great history and craftsmanship that truly is looking better with age. It’s constructed from ultra-heavy duty 22-oz. cotton twill, densely woven and treated with Paraffin to ensure it is highly water repellent. It features bridle leather handles and fully reinforced seams. I prefer to try and buy brands and products that, where possible, are ethically produced by real craftsman and have a provenance about them.

Lastly, where would you like to take the role and END. in the future? 

We have some really exciting plans happening in the next 12 months. We’ve been working hard with a number of collaborative partners on product that I think builds upon the success we’ve had with the Saucony Shadow 5000 “Burger,” Reebok Insta Pump “Clarets” and the Journal Standard Capsule collection we recently launched. I’d like to think that we can cement ourselves as a big player in the collaborative product world. These projects take up a lot of time, but drive huge amounts of traffic to the website and put our brand in the spotlight. Being involved with them from pitch to design, to first sample, to then bringing them to market is a really satisfying process.

Another very exciting project going on here is that we will be opening a new store in the next six months. I can’t say much other than it will be in Newcastle, in a more prominent spot in the city center and we will be combining the two current stores we have under one roof. The aim is to make the new retail space a real destination and hub for UK menswear shopping.

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